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Monday, 3 December 2012

Chop Stick

Commission for the Indianapolis Museum of Art to create an innovative concession stand for the 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park.

The design is based on the universal notion that you need to sacrifice something in order to make something new. Every product is a compound of different pieces of nature, whether it is a cell phone, a car, a stone floor or a wood board; they have all been harvested in one way or another. This project is about trying to harvest something as gently as possible so that the source of what we harvest is displayed in a pure, pedagogic and respectful way—respectful to both the source itself and to everyone visiting the building. 

The raw material we selected is a 100-foot yellow poplar tree, the state tree of Indiana, known for its beauty, respectable size, and good properties as hardwood. We found a great specimen standing in a patch of forest outside of Anderson, Indiana. The goal was to make the best out of this specific poplar tree, from taking it down and through the whole process of transforming it into a useful building that is now part of one of the finest art parks in the United States. As the project proceeded, we continued to be surprised by all of the marvelous features that where revealed in refining a tree into a building; both in the level of craftsmanship and knowledge of woodworkers and arborists, and also of the tree itself.

The tree was then transported to the park site, where it became the suspended horizontal beam of this new structure, which is almost entirely made out of the tree itself. The tree’s bark was removed to prevent it from falling on bystanders, a process that occurs naturally as the moisture content in the wood drops, causing the tree to shrink and the bark to lose its grip. Craftsmen loosen entire cylinders of bark from the trunk that are then flattened and cut into a standard shingle length. The shingles was carefully stacked and placed under pressure to avoid curling. The stacks was then kiln dried to the proper moisture content, sterilized, and kept in climate-controlled storage until they where ready for use. Bark shingles are very durable, long lasting (up to 80 years), and maintenance free.

After debarking, pieces of wood are extracted from the suspended tree and used for each of the components of the concession stand; structural support of the construction, pillars and studs for the kiosk, swings under the tree for kids, chairs and tables to be placed under the tree’s crown, from which special fixtures made out of bark pieces will hang. Many school children visit 100 Acres, and we had those kids in mind when we decided to hang swings from the tree. On a smaller scale, we explored ways to use other parts of the tree in the concession stand, including pressed leaves and flowers that were taken from the tree and that became ornaments in the front glass of the kiosk.
We also made Yellow Poplar syrup that was extracted from the bark of the tree and that will be sold in the kiosk, thus meaning that you could actually eat a part of the building

Chop Stick before choped down

Chop Stick in the air

Flowers from Chop Stick

From inside the kiosk

the debarking of Chop Stick

the transportation of Chop Stick

the transportation of Chop Stick

Master diagram showing the concept and the process


Diagram showing the cuts and where the different pieces of wood is used

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Creature Code

A commission by the Japan Design Association and Designboom to produce a piece of architecture as a tribute to the eccentric 18th century painter Ito Jakuchu to be exhibited at the Tokyo Designers Week. The team could also realize one of the projects in Tokyo with support by The Swedish Arts Grants Committeé 

In the beginning, the world was untainted nature; creatures could find water in the rivers and the lakes and find shelter in the woods, the grass and within the earth itself.
With the evolution and progress of mankind however, nature has been shifted more to suit the needs of humans and more and more of the surface of the planet has become artificial with vast areas of croplands and the rise and prosperity of towns, cities and metropolises. The animals have been pushed away to smaller parcels of lands and whole habitats have been changed with the speed of human development.
Some animals have adapted to these new artificial environments but there are seldom any efforts from the humans to make it easier for them to do so, we don’t want them in our cities unless they are well-behaved pets.

Ito Jakuchu understood the value of animals and wanted to combine the worlds of animals and man into something greater. In his spirit, we have done a series of projects to increase the awareness of that we are not the only species on this earth as well as in the cities that we have produced.

Common building materials could be slightly adjusted to still keep its intended function but that now also can be used better by the critters in the city. Hopefully this could be a start to a design strategy for the urban animals. Each project uses an advantage that the city brings and that could benefit the animal; Water, Food, Shelter, Heat, Production, Heat and Lifestyle

We realized one of these proposals in Tokyo which takes use of the water in the city.
The idea is that where we before just saw a gutter, we will now try to see small rivers, so instead of directing water from our roofs directly underground in a hurry, we’re proposing it to take detours that will benefit the city animals better which sometimes have trouble to find water.
To show a very literal example of this, we have made a gutter module that is a fish tank that fits any standard Japanese gutter.

We went to the Tokyo Glass Art Institute where we gave the instructions for the creation of the fish tank and which we later on attached to a drainage pipe at a residential house in the outskirts of Tokyo.
The result can be seen below as well as in the video where you also will see more of how the production went.

When we build our houses, we often make them impenetrable and hermetic to keep weather and animals away. It is poignant to see all this building mass and facades that doesn’t givie anything back to nature.
With simple modifications we could for example make a new brick into a bird house and another brick as a bird bath and so on.

We have a superior technology and production capacity that we are alone of having on this planet. The combination with the size of a human compared to insects for example, means that we could without much of an effort give them entire cities in a matter of no time. If we take the Japanese rhino beetle for example, that live most of its life under ground, is having a hard time to find places to exist due to the immense foot print that our cities are making, and where there are not houses, there is impenetrable asphalt and concrete that makes a coating over the earth. We could easily modify drainage sheets that are normally dug down around houses into massive underground housing complex for the insects that would still function as we want it to but benefit them greatly.

Many animals hibernate in climates with cold winters and even if they don’t sleep through winter they anyway tend to be less active and slumber a lot and seek warm places. The heat that we produce could come in handy for some of these animals and can easily be better shared to our fellow critters.
We could also give away some indoor space that we don’t use, like the area under a sofa or a bed for example. This space could with a small enclosure be made into an animal winter habitat which is reached from the outside with a cover. These can be already custom made with an enclosed space that is docked in to the wall opening, or be a small container that can be inserted in the same fashion.

There are many intelligent animals that don’t just think of life as surviving and reproducing, the snow monkeys in Japan for example that both take pleasure in bathing and sunbathing.
We replace some of the plain metal sheets on the roof with curved sheets that make excellent sun chairs to stretch out on, just next to a curved steel section that makes up a basin of water that could be heated during the winter. The chimney is also refined into a habitat for the monkeys so they can take part of the heat.
Monkeys can also use tools, so a set up with electrical appliances, connected with a sun cell unit, that can benefit the monkeys enjoyment in life, for example a blender to mix their fruits, a refrigerator for cold drinks, a fan for hot summer days and so on.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Villa Village

A commission for a family that lives outside Tampere, Finland, to create an extension to a 1970s house by a lake.There are certain aspects that formed our concept for this project. One is about the clients’ lifestyle and one is about economy and production.

As we noticed while visiting the clients, a couple with two children, they both worked a lot from home and that they almost used their existing house as if it was a small town, they worked on different places both outside and inside and Skyped each other as if they were in different parts of the town. 
The more we came to think about it, the existing house and the surroundings seemed to be a very well used small village and that’s what we emphasized and adapted our architecture to. We saw them as strollers in their own town, setting up their office in the park, at the café or in the sauna depending on where they might end up on their daily stroll. This way of life doesn’t correspond to normal architecture where every room has its function. This way of life needs a village with several options of moving between different settings. 
Our proposal is not do one extension; it is in fact to do as many as possible. 
The clients will not be owners of one house anymore; they will be mayors of a small town.
A village of small units are placed to capture the beautiful surroundings but also to improve the existing house as well as the close area around it. The result will be a house as versatile and pleasant as a small town; an interesting structure for the clients to inhabit and walk about in many different fashions that will inspire them in their everyday activities, as well as for work as for leisure.

Economy and production
As an office we often try to investigate the production of architecture, the materials and techniques we as architects can work with in order to create something. In recent projects we have been trying to harvest a material as gently as possible and we have also even planted and grown a house.  As for this project, we have investigated the opposite approach; to work with ready-mades and improve them, a sort of fancy dinner of fast food architecture, buffet style. This approach came natural given the village atmosphere that we wanted to strive for as the most competitive segment in the building industry is the market for small sheds and cottages. We have found over fifty different companies so far and the competition between them has led to ridiculous prices on prefabricated small houses where you can buy a 15 m2 shed for only 2000 Euros for example. The sheds have no special features but as a wooden structure they are quite easy to improve and being so cheap you can buy plenty of them and elaborate with how they interact with each other. The advantage of building several extensions is of course also that the clients don’t need to build everything at once and they can plan the growth of the village more gently and also adapt it easier to their economy.

The Village
The design has been as much about city planning as house design.
We have taken in consideration the outlooks, the sun and to make an interesting promenade that includes all the characteristics of the lake side site. We have a town square with a lot of sun, cottages that overlook the lake, others that are directed to the forest and others that have more urban qualities.
Aesthetically we will treat and paint the exterior in a similar colour, change the windows to be better insulated and also larger at some of the modules.

The best view from the house is from the roof level, and given the fact that the existing roof is flat and that it is possible to build upon it, we have decided to put the main part of the village here.
A stair is built from the existing living room to the roof level, just over the staircase that leads down to the basement. The staircase ends up inside a mid-sized cottage with large windows so the whole staircase also will act as a large light shaft for the existing house. A family room is located in this cottage and glass sliding doors face the sunny town square/terrace, from the square it is possible to take an outdoor stair down to another terrace that connects the existing living room with the outside. From the terrace a spacious stair/hangout area leads down to a relaxation area with sauna and a potential outdoor Jacuzzi. These cottages are linked from the basement level in the existing house.

From the new family room that is located on the roof level, the clients will reach another small cottage with a guest bathroom, and further on a cottage that faces the forest and would be an excellent guest house/office.
On the roof there is also a cottage that lies over the existing master bedroom that will give the bedroom a double ceiling height as well as a secluded space on the roof level that can be reached via Main Street.
Smaller sheds that acts as lanterns over the children’s rooms could also be done.
A two-car garage is built next to the old one, making the old garage into a storage room.
A secluded cottage that lies a little bit further out in the woods can be reached via a stairway from the roof. While almost every new cottage can be reached from the existing house, some can only be reached by going outdoors first, giving the cottage more privacy and calm which is perfect if one has work that demands extra concentration, or guests that prefers this setting more.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Stockholm Stacked

An investigation of the possibilities of a densification of inner Stockholm to solve the great lack of housing that the city suffers from.

Stockholm is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe at the moment, but the pace of new constructions of housing is not at all in tune with the current demand. The result of this unwillingness to build has already begun to show its face on many levels.
One consequence of this is that Stockholm are turning out to be a more segregated city than before, where the people that can afford the expensive apartments in the inner city moves in and the people that hasn’t the income that is necessary is forced to move to the peripheral suburbs.
This lack of ambitions from the city will also lead to a loss of a lot of potential growth if nothing is done.
Who wants to move to a city where it is impossible to get an apartment? Which companies wants to invest in a city where their employees may have a hard time to find a place to stay? Which exchange students wants to study in a city where all the free time available will go to find a small flat with a decent rent?
Instead of building in the outskirts of the city we propose to build where most people actually wants to live.
We propose a new way of looking at the city, which at a first glance from the street looks already complete and finished, but that actually hides over hundreds of new potential sites in the inner city.

Stockholm consists chiefly of blocks with inner courtyards, yards that in our opinion are not used to their full potential, and it is here that the solution lies.
We simply propose that we change the planning regulations for the courtyards to allow a no limit height experimentation that will be able to solve the dire lack of housing that Stockholm faces.
There are roughly three different types of courtyards which this new free zone can be applied to; the empty yards that are ample enough, the ones with buildings in good condition that can be built upon and court yards with houses in bad conditions that can be replaced by much higher buildings.
The existing buildings that are facing the streets are kept as they are and the new court yard buildings will have typical Stockholm facades, sampling the surrounding areas architecture.
A dense city is good for the environment and this type of development also takes away the pressure on the important green areas that are open for all.
The new houses can benefit the surrounding tenants; for example a garage, a gym and a roof top terrace.
Developing a part of the court yard also means that the tenants/owners could make a profit or get lower rents. People most affected by the new development could also get a first pick in one of the new apartments in the yard buildings. With a larger density of people also comes a wider range of things to do.
More museums, libraries, restaurants, bars, cafés, places where people can meet.
The result will be a better Stockholm for everyone; a Stockholm Stacked.